Artist Chen Jhen explores identity through food – or, more specifically, food culture. Chen has been studying how people in the Netherlands eat in an effort to epitomize the “Dutch life”. In her projects “Amsterdam Lunch” and “Maastricht Dinner”, shown at the Van Eyck Open Studios in March, visitors were invited to watch an “Amsterdam Lunch” recreated through screens displaying a Taiwanese performer as he acted out a script created by Chen; she based the scenario on her notes documenting and observing how and what people in the Netherlands eat.
“Maastricht Dinner” consists of her self-imposed training to become a European. One act of “training” involves the most mundane and yet revealing of everyday tasks: grocery shopping. Chen would visit her local supermarket every night, loading her shopping cart with the exact foods and in the exact quantities that the shopper who entered after her had done. She would then head home and use her groceries to prepare her own meals, sometimes creating meals from her head and sometimes following recipes based on the ingredients she purchased. Likening this to a form of “hunting and gathering”, Chen proves that sometimes your stomach is the best way to explore a new culture.
In Chen’s book, “Amsterdam Lunch – The Instruction of Being the Other”, she meticulously records the way her colleagues eat their lunch. All the records made by humans are unavoidably influenced by memory. I am very interested in how memory deforms the state of reality… we shaped the notes into a performance script. The former “facts” of the lunch scene, after many translations and qualitative changes, turned into a fantasy story in the name of research (Chen).
For more information on Chen’s work and to purchase her book, contact her at email@example.com.